BBC3 TV channel to be switched off by February, BBC Trust confirms
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- 27-11-15, 04:16 PM #1
BBC3 TV channel to be switched off by February, BBC Trust confirms
BBC3 TV channel to be switched off by February, BBC Trust confirms | Media | The Guardian
Corporation’s governing body rubber-stamps decision to move youth-oriented channel online, but calls for more youth programming on BBC1 and BBC2
The BBC3 TV channel will be switched off by February next year, the BBC Trust has confirmed, despite accepting that almost 1 million younger viewers could desert the corporation as a consequence.
Moving the 12-year-old youth-oriented channel online will save the corporation about £30m a year, with some of those savings redirected into its drama budget for BBC1. The content budget for the new online-only service will be £30m, a 50% cut from the current level.about £6m of which will be spent on short-form content.
The trust announced on Thursday that it had approved the corporation’s long-running intention to scrap the BBC3 TV channel, but told bosses they must boost the amount of programming targeting young people on BBC1 and BBC2.
The BBC3 TV channel will stop showing programmes at the end of January, but will continue to run as a “barker” – “a promotional transitional channel” – until it is fully switched off at the end of February.
The trust strengthened some of the conditions it set out in its provisional decision rubber-stamping the closure of the TV channel in June in a bid to address concerns about the loss of services to the key 16- to 34-year-old demographic.
Conditions include that all BBC3 TV long-form programmes made must also be broadcast on BBC1 and BBC2 at a “variety of times” across the schedule so they are not just buried in “less visible and unpopular slots”.
There is also a stipulation that the corporation must look to make more programmes targeting younger audiences specifically for BBC1 and BBC2, on top of the BBC3 programming it has to air.
The trust said it was attempting to address concerns about losing its younger audience after research showed that up to 80% of the 925,000 audience who use no other BBC TV service could switch off. The BBC says that 540,000 of those are 16 to 34 year olds.
On average, 11.2 million people watch BBC3 every week, according to the trust’s own analysis. As a consequence of the online-only switch, the BBC’s reach among 16- to 24-year-olds could fall by 3% to 3.5% overall, and up to 5% of black audiences and women in lower income households are also likely to be lost.
The trust’s own public-value assessment said the corporation’s proposal offered “low value for money” because of the reduction in viewers, but recognised that the savings would “offset financial pressures” or be used to re-invest in other areas.
The trust acknowledged there had been strong public opposition to the closure of the TV channel but said the corporation’s proposal had “intuitive force”.
Jono Read, from the SaveBBC3 campaign, said he was bitterly disappointed and that it was “a very sad day for the future of the BBC”. He said he would seek to find out if the decision could be challeneged.
“The BBC said the reason for doing this was to find £30m to fund programming for BBC1 – that’s a television service already hugely funded by our licence fee,” Read said. “With The Voice now lost by the BBC, it will save about the same amount they needed from closing BBC3. But the BBC failed to make that connection.
“It appears this is an example of young people being hit the hardest by cuts. We will now mull over this decision. If the decision can be challenged independently of the BBC and BBC Trust, we will do so. With hundreds of thousands on our side there’s still time to make it happen.”
More than 300,000 people have signed a petition to save the channel on change.org.
“The decision to close a TV channel is a difficult one, and one we have not taken lightly,” said Suzanna Taverne, chair of the trust’s services committee, which assessed the corporation’s proposals. “The BBC must adapt with its audiences. The evidence is very clear that younger audiences are watching more online and less linear TV. The plans enable the BBC to deliver more distinctive content online while bearing down on costs.”
The trust said care had to be taken about the loss of “watershed protection” of the regular linear schedule of BBC3 in a shift online to make sure younger viewers don’t have access to unsuitable content.
The corporation said BBC3 online shows on the BBC iPlayer will have the standard parental lock feature and adult material will come with a “G” for guidance.
Ofcom’s market impact assessment found that BBC3 TV was viewed as a “flicking channel” where people “stumbled across content”. It went on to say that given that BBC3 shows will move to other BBC channels, and that popular shows including Family Guy and American Dad have already been poached by rivals, as well as options to watch similar rivals services such as E4 or Dave, meant “BBC3 audiences may be less likely to follow BBC3 content online”.
The trust said it would review the performance of the BBC3 online service within the next 18 months. “The BBC Trust could then consider imposing quotas or formal targets if it considers that performance against the conditions has been unsatisfactory,” the report said.
Damian Kavanagh, the controller of BBC3, said he felt the move was not about closing the channel but re-inventing it. “BBC3 is not closing, we are reinventing it online,” said Kavanagh in a blogpost.
“Today is just the beginning for BBC3 and our plans to transform our offer for young people. We will not be a scheduled 7pm to 4am linear broadcast TV channel but we will be everywhere else giving you the freedom to choose what to watch when you want.”
He said BBC3 would continue to make programming such as Murdered by My Boyfriend, Gavin & Stacey and Life and Death Row, while also investing in “new form” content such as “short-form video, picture led stories, animation and authored pieces.
“We will no longer be limited to traditional TV,” he said. “These are exciting times for BBC3.”
The trust also approved plans to extend CBBC, the children’s channel that shares the programme guide and channel number with BBC3, by two hours to 9pm.
The report said the proposed extension of CBBC’s hours “drew a mixed response from audiences and incremental reach is likely to be low”. It said its consultation respondents were “on the whole opposed to extended hours”. However, it approved the plan in part because it can be implemented at “minimal cost” and the extension of hours was not likely to impact commercial rivals.
“The proposal would expand choice for younger viewers, could be implemented at minimal cost and represented good use of the licence fee,” said the BBC Trust. It has also given the green light to develop the iPlayer beyond a catch-up service to include more online-first and third-party content.
As expected the trust confirmed its rejection of the corporation’s controversial bid to launch a BBC1+1 channel in place of BBC3. The report gave given the corporation three months to return with a full proposal for the use of the BBC3 TV spectrum. The BBC Trust said a BBC1+1 channel would have an adverse impact on commercial rivals.
Channel spectrum is worth about £4m to £5m, according to industry sources. However, the spectrum occupied by BBC3 – in standard definition (SD) and high definition (HD) – comes with some caveats for potential buyers. The SD spectrum has to be used for public service broadcasting, which will potentially limit its interest to commercial rivals. The HD spectrum has less restrictions, making it more valuable, but any buyer will also only be able to broadcast from 9pm.
Separately, a range of players across the country, including local TV services London Live, STV in Scotland and Mustard TV in Norwich, are aiming to snap up the valuable BBC3 position that will be vacated on the electronic programme guide on services including Freeview, Virgin Media and Sky.